What’s the ideal size center console fishing boat for plying the Chesapeake’s waters? Many would argue a 26-footer is perfect. It has room for plenty of anglers and the heft to handle choppy seas, but isn’t so big it’s difficult to handle or store. The Sportsman Open 262 certainly checks these boxes, but there are a number of additional traits that make it a potentially perfect fishing machine for the Chesapeake.

sportsman open 262
The Sportsman Open 262 is an ideal size for many anglers, and it's a stand-out boat in a number of ways.

First and foremost, fishability: the 262 Open comes with a pair of pressurized 30-gallon aquarium-style livewells in the transom, which will not only hold dozens of spot for days on end but will also entertain the kids when the bite’s slow. And when that bite is hot, the pair of 140-quart in-deck fishboxes will be much appreciated. Then, there are rodholders. The stock selection includes four flush-mounts, rocket launchers and kingfish holders on the T-top, rocket launchers in the leaning post, and racks under the gunwales. There’s tackle stowage in the leaning post, and both raw and freshwater washdowns come standard.

livewells on a sportsman open 262
Check out those aquarium livewells on the Sportsman Open 262.

Family anglers will appreciate the roomy head compartment, full coaming bolsters, and copious seating. There’s a flip-up bench seat in the transom and a double-wide forward console seat, but the prime kick-back-and-relax spots are found in the bow. Rather than designing in the U-shaped seating common to boats of this size and type Sportsman took a lounger-style approach and gave it more of a V-shape, with two full-length forward-facing loungers and removable backrests. Sure you could sit here, but why sit when you can recline? Added bonus: the 262 Open comes with a six-speaker JL audio and Fusion Apollo RA670 stereo system. Double-added bonus: this is one of the few boats its size to have entry doors on not one but both sides, so getting on and off is easy no matter which side of the dock you’re tied up to.

If that sounds like a slew of standard features — which most other builders would call cost-adding options — well, it is. Some of the other unexpected perks on the stock boat include underwater lights, an actuated vent in the windshield, a through-hull anchor windlass, and a 12-inch Garmin GPSMAP 1243xsv. Speaking of that Garmin, it talks with a SeaStar Maximus Digital Switching system and the Garmin’s touchscreen is your interface with the boat.

Note also that the Open 262 is available with either a single or twin outboards, so those who think they may venture offshore a time or two when the tuna come to town have the option of going with multiple powerplants. A single F425 nets you a cruise of right around 40 mph at 4500 rpm and a top-end in the low-to-mid 50s, while a pair of F150s runs in the low-to-mid 30s and hits the upper-mid 40s at wide-open throttle.

We can debate about what makes a “perfect” size center console for the Bay all day long, and truth be told, the correct answer can be completely different for different people. But if a 26-footer falls into the sweet spot for you, the Sportsman 262 Open might just prove to be, well, perfect.

Sportsman Open 262 Specifications

  • LOA – 26’6”
  • Beam – 9’5”
  • Displacement – 5800 lbs
  • Draft (hull) – 1’10”
  • Transom Deadrise – 22 degrees
  • Fuel Capacity – 160 gal.
  • Max. Power – 425 hp
  • Area Dealers – Riverside Marine, Essex, MD, (410) 686-1500.